The Native American Bola Tie: FAQ

Is it “bola" or “bolo”? 

Both terms are correct.  Patent applications and newspaper advertisements from the early 1950s used the term “bolo”.   However, the Bola Tie Society of Arizona, which began in 1966, has retained the “bola” name.

Cobbled Inlay Hopi Bola Tie by Sonway (Verma Nequatewa)

Spirit Woman Bola Tie by Sonwai (Hopi)

Where did the bola tie first appear?

It’s not known exactly where or when the bola tie was first invented.  Its origin is believed to be connected to early designs of jewelry from the Victorian era (1837 - 1901).  These designs included metal-chain necklaces with a charm connecting the two halves at the chest, worn by both men and women.  In the 1850s, Native Americans were also wearing shells or pieces of metal on strands connected under the neckline.   

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, scarf slides made out of leather or metal pieces, shells, claws, or animal teeth, were popular attire for both natives and non-natives.   Then in the 1920s and 1930s, American cowboys began wearing scarf slides on their neckerchiefs made by Zuni artists that were carved out of sheep bone and decorated with beadwork, the most common design being a steer-head shape.  From there, scarf slides were crafted out of metal and turquoise by Native Americans, and morphed into the bola tie we know today.  

Candelaria Turquoise Bola Tie by Arland Ben

Candelaria Turquoise Bola Tie by Arland Ben (Navajo)

When did bola ties first become popular?

Bola ties first became a popular necktie in the West during the 1940s.  They were made fashionable by Western shows, such as The Roy Rogers Show, Billy the Kid and The Cisco Kid.   Hollywood characters, such as Hopalong Cassidy and The Singing Cowboy, were always pictured with scarf slides and bola ties.  Western-style clothing was advertised using the “cowboy” neckwear and commercialized as “rodeo clothes” throughout the 1950s and 1960s..

Why are there so many bola ties in the Southwest?

On April 22, 1971, Governor Jack Williams signed legislation declaring the bola tie as Arizona’s “official state neckwear.”  Since then, both New Mexico and Texas have also made the bola their official state tie.  Bola ties are a symbol of the Southwest, worn by anyone from a businessman at work to a celebrity at a black tie event.  However, as they’ve gained in popularity, they’re now worn by people all across the United States from coast to coast.

Are bola ties just for men?

Bola ties are not just for men!  In fact, more and more women are wearing bola ties.  They’re fashionable either as a neck tie, or worn with the bolo piece placed low like a long necklace.   Bolo ties make a statement for any woman expressing their distinctive sense of style.

Citation:

Pardue, Diana F. & Sandfield, Norman L. (2011). Native American Bolo Ties. Santa Fe, NM: Museum of New Mexico Press.

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Sizing

Although the best way to test the size and fit of a piece of jewelry is to try it on in the store, we know that is not always an option. In an effort to help you choose the piece that is right for you, we have included measurements of each piece on the website. Here is how our measurements are defined:

Bracelets

Finding the right size bracelet for your wrist has always been a tricky endeavor, since, unlike rings, there isn't a standardized, universal sizing chart for wrist size. One reason for this is that we all have different shaped wrists, some of us have round wrists, while others have more oval. Bracelets, like wrists, also have different shapes.

So, while bracelet sizing will never be an exact science, we've done what we can to ensure the greatest chance of a comfortable fit. The best thing you can do if you don't know your wrist size is to take a soft measuring tape and loosely measure the circumference of your wrist at the point you plan on wearing it. Try not to have the measuring tape dig into your skin, as this will result in a smaller than ideal size. Once you have the circumference of your wrist, compare it to the chart below to find the correct bracelet size. If your wrist measures in-between two sizes, we recommend rounding up to the larger size. (ie: if your wrist measures 6.375"- you should shop for size "Medium" bracelets.)

 Wrist Circumference

Corresponding Bracelet Size

5.5"

XX-Small

5.75"

Extra-Small

6"

Small

6.25"

Small-Medium

6.5"

Medium

6.75" - 7"

Medium-Large

7.25"

Large

7.5"

Extra-Large

7.75"

XX-Large

8"

XXX-Large

 

You may want to drill down further on the bracelet sizing to make sure the cuff is a comfortable fit. You will notice on our website that we generally list four measurements for bracelets:

Keep in mind that certain bracelets can be adjusted slightly to fit your wrist, but those with inlay or stones all the way around will be damaged if bent. In any case, it is always best to check with with us to see if a particular bracelet is adjustable.

Lastly, have no fear! If you order a bracelet that doesn't fit, send it back for one that does! We want this to be a positive experience, you should never wear something that isn't 100% comfortable. More on our return policy here.

Buckles

Sizing belt buckles is pretty straightforward. The height and width are self-explanatory, and the belt width describes the maximum belt width the buckle will fit on.

Concha Belts

We try to include the height and width for the conchas, as well as the buckle (if different), and the width of the belt they are on. The length of the concha belts can be less important, because these belts are often made quite long to accommodate many waist sizes, and then can be shortened to fit the wearer. If you are concerned whether or not a belt will fit you, just ask. We are happy to size most of our concha belts before shipping.